Friday, February 24, 2012

Take it Away!

 Sometimes things just add up.  Today, they added up to subtraction.

I had no pressing engagements today and was able to spend a pleasant morning browsing my RSS subscriptions more thoroughly than usual.  Through a link at The Other Things Matter, I discovered Kevin Giddens' blog, Do-Nothing Teaching.  I've only had a chance to browse it a bit, but I'm really enjoying what I've read so far. It calls to mind the humorous phrase that you'll see in popular writing about meditation: Don't just do something, sit there!

Giddens proposes that teachers "take a critical pause before each action and ask ourselves questions such as these: Why am I doing this? What would happen if I didn't do that? Could my students do it instead? Is it really necessary for my students' learning?"  That critical pause is something that happens with mindfulness.  It's nice to see it applied so clearly to teaching. And the questions will be familiar to the unplugged teacher -- at least, they're the questions I started asking myself when I discovered Dogme. You can read Gibbens' comments on Dogme and how it compares to his philosophy here.

A little while later, I was skimming a newsletter from edmodo and noticed a link with the intriguing title "Poetry Through Subtraction". That link took me to this article at My Modern Met, a wonderful idea for encouraging learners to pore over a newspaper, even if they don't know many/most of the words they see.  Sidetrack a stack of newspapers on their way to the recycling bin, give each learner a marker, and let them create their own poetry by removing the words that aren't needed.  The idea is from artist Austin Kleon.  He removes letters and words from photos too, which he calls DE-SIGNS.

Austin Kleon - Newspaper Blackout

I picked this particular poem because it seems to align with the philosophy of Do-Nothing Teaching, which was inspired by a philosphy of farming developed (un-developed?) by Masanobu Fukuoka.

The Master does nothing,
yet he leaves nothing undone.
The ordinary man is always doing things,
yet many more are left to be done.

Tao Te Ching, Chapter 38 as translated by S. Mitchell

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